Morgan Smith (CHS ’81) is about as Coronado as you can get. The son of Morgan Sr. and Barbara Smith, Dad was a Commander and Navy fighter pilot, while Mom worked as a leasing agent at the Oakwood Apartments, now known as the Broadstone Apartments. After focusing, at least partly on surfing during his high school years, Morgan matriculated to the University of San Diego, where he majored in Computer Sciences and was a scholarship student in the NROTC Program.
After graduating from USD, Smith took a path familiar to many Navy Veterans, being commissioned as an Ensign and trained at the Flight School in Pensacola, Florida. Smith’s nine years in the Navy included being assigned to the VF-124 Gunfighters and then the VF-51 Screaming Eagles, where he flew F-14’s. Smith had three deployments on the USS Kitty Hawk, 150 carrier landings and served in Iraq. He completed his Naval career as an Assistant Professor of Naval Science at USD. “I had motivated students and they were eager to absorb what you have to offer,” Smith said. “I was teaching leadership, management, and Naval engineering systems. It was a great program with great kids. I love USD. It’s a great institution with great people.”
Smith retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant. One of the benefits of teaching at USD is he was able to earn an MBA.
One of the many interesting elements to Smith’s life to date is he is both a Tomcat Fighter Pilot and has studied to be a Buddhist monk, a path he described. “After I started Flight School, I wanted to excel. And when I was young, I had a long-distance relationship with a woman, that got in my head. I wanted to find a way to focus and clear my mind. I read ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,’ by Shunryu Suzuki and I maintained my meditation. There’s a long back story, but my aunt went to India many years ago, met a Buddhist monk and they wound up getting married. He gave up his robes for a while. He thought they had been married in a previous life. Then he went back to his monastery. Now he has several temples, hospitals and foundations. I used to go to Santa Barbara to meditate with him and he invited me to India to train. There I learned a lot more about meditation, loving kindness and compassion, which are very strong in my life. When things are difficult, Buddhism has been a really strong foundation in my life, which has stayed with me.”
While reading his book entitled “Generation Squeezed: A Holistic Guide to taking Care of Aging Parents,” I discovered that Smith also played the guitar and asked if that was perhaps a form of meditation. Smith replied, “Music is in our family’s blood. My Mom sang in jazz clubs in Detroit and her father was a saxophonist. My sister is a singer and music is something I will continue to do.”
Later on, Smith made another transition, this time to becoming a Certified Financial Planner. “I worked in the corporate world as a VP of Sales in North America for a systems integration firm. I loved working with people one-on-one. To be a financial planner, you have to have a logical side and understand numbers. And you have to understand people and be able to peel back the onion to learn what is driving them from an emotional standpoint. My Buddhist studies combined both of those capabilities and that is helpful dealing with people and families. A lot of investing isn’t about the investments themselves, but about the people. And people are driven in their decision-making by their emotions. There are a lot of behavioral aspects to keeping people on the right track.”
“Generation Squeezed: A Holistic Guide to taking Care of Aging Parents,” covers a wide range of topics, focusing on helping your parents as they get older, with an emphasis on making important life and financial decisions. The highest praise I can give Smith’s books is I wish I had access to the tips included in his book 10 years ago, when I was the executor of my father’s estate. Several of the financial and legal concepts in “Generation Squeezed,” are already in place in my life, however there were half a dozen tips from Smith I need to follow up on in the coming months. The book took me about three hours to read and Smith’s narrative style moves the book along smartly. And since I literally bought the book, I can say it was money well spent.
“I got the idea to write the book toward the end of my Mom’s life,” Smith explained. “I have talked to a lot of people in similar circumstances. Most people seemed to have more anxiety and were more lost than I was. I had a lot to learn but had a certain financial background and other aspects in my life that helped me get through the process in decent shape. I gleaned a lot of pearls and lessons learned. With my expertise as a financial advisor, I had a basis of understanding of human emotions and psychology, being empathetic with what people are going through. Also, there was an enlightened self-interest, I could really help people out and maybe do something for my family financially.”
In his book, Smith kept returning to the concept of communication among family members, including discussing the family’s finances with your children. When asked the appropriate age to begin that process, he replied, “I think the sooner the better. The whole idea of family meetings originated from a few ultra-high net worth clients. You should get kids to engage in what their legacy should be. Set up foundations and get your kids involved. At the very base level, have a family meeting to talk about anything, including school or issues the kids are having. That could be beneficial, as early as when your children are five or six years old. When by life’s necessity you start talking about end-of-life wishes you can discuss your children’s interest in taking over the family business, or who wants this house. It brings kids and parents together. Also, you really flesh out what’s really in people’s minds. An older parent may assume some child may want something, but they don’t really want it. I like to say, ‘We can choose your friends, but not our siblings.’ There are kids who hate each other and kids who are benevolent and want to be helpful. Contentious family meetings, if they are mediated by somebody like a financial advisor, can flush out difficult issues instead of going to court. What I feel is really important about this book is the point that parents passing away can destroy a family. That’s not an ideal outcome, but it happens all the time. At the very least we would like to mitigate the tensions and disruption. Some elderly parents are naïve and hope everything will happen for the best. An adult child may be divorced and re-married with psychological problems. Or there may be a greedy spouse. You never know how things change.”
When asked what advice he would give to a child who is suddenly the executor of his parents’ estate, Smith smiled (we did our interview via Zoom) and said, “The first thing I would do is read the book. Then you need to get professional help. Imagine a scenario where you are unavailable, on vacation, or sick, when you are needed. And the other factor is you have to understand and have the idea that you don’t know what you don’t know. Find a fiduciary or a corporate trustee willing to act as a co-trustee. And ideally that would be laid out in your parents’ trust documents.”
Smith also touched on a concept called ‘Sudden Wealth Syndrome’ which can impact individuals as a result of a large inheritance. Smith explained, “I think the study is mentioned in the book, the majority of the next generation doesn’t feel responsible handling large sums of money. It happens in a lot of inheritances where the children feel isolated, guilty and they have a fear of losing money. All of these new psychological things come into play. It’s an identified behavioral issue. At the very least, talk to a fiduciary advisor to plan out how much money there is, then when and where you want to spend it. The money won’t last forever, so you need to plan whether to give it to your kids, support your charitable inclinations or invest the money.”
Smith and his wife Mari have a son aged six, who attends kindergarten at Crown Preschool. It may come as no surprise their son is named Morgan.
As we concluded, Smith said, “Everybody is going to go through something like this if you live long enough. We are all under pressure in life and having a parent pass away or taking care of them while they are sick, can add enough pressure to your life that things start falling apart. My recommendation is to get educated as much as you can. The big thing in my book is you can’t just prepare for the facts, but also emotionally. The book is intended for adult children of the elderly, but it will help the elderly also. I’m available to speak and help people out.”
Smith self-published his book and it’s available in an electronic format online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. The paperback version is available on Amazon. Smith’s website is www.gensqueezed.com and the E-book can be purchased there as well.